Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Honored at Being in the Presence of the Wounded

Phil and Carol Gray gave me heads-up about Matt Kokkonen's Viewpoint article in the Trib yesterday where he reflects on his visit with Lance in Germany. Here it is . . .

Matt Kokkonen talks to Josiah Johnstone and Joseph Staub, of the 649th Military Police from Camp San Luis Obispo, at the American Thunder Rally on Sept. 9.

Matt Kokkonen talks to Josiah Johnstone and Joseph Staub, of the 649th Military Police from Camp San Luis Obispo, at the American Thunder Rally on Sept. 9.

I want to thank the many people who attended our fourth 9/11 American Thunder Rally and barbecue supporting our troops at Mitchell Park on Sept. 9.

We collected a truckload of goods for the Military Parents of the Central Coast. The San Luis Obispo County Band played patriotic music. Vandenberg Honor Guard posted the colors. Col. William Hatch’s uplifting message was drawn from more than 30 years of military experience after his graduation from West Point.

Special thanks go to the following businesses for their generous donations: Bob’s BBQ of Santa Maria, Burke Construction, Milo Ferini Farms, Glacier Ice, Animal Care Clinic, San Luis Sourdough, Grizzly Academy, Lehmkuhl’s Cookies, Goni’s Brownies and the numerous individuals and donors without whom this memorable and profitable event would not have happened. San Luis Print and Copy, KVEC, KPRL, KGDP and KUHL promoted the event extensively.

Last week, on 9/11, I traveled to Germany to visit my daughter. She just had a baby daughter. While waiting for a connecting flight, I was contacted about the San Luis Obispo soldier who had been in a serious accident in Iraq. His parents were wondering where I was going in Germany.

My daughter, an emergency room doctor serving in the Air Force, had just been transferred to the large Army hospital at Landstuhl, Germany. Our local soldier, Lance Iunker, was being transferred to that hospital the same day that I arrived.

Lance was in a transport accident after a night mission in Iraq. Seven soldiers died and eight survived with major injuries. I met with him and other members of his unit who were not in intensive care. We talked and prayed together.

While Lance said my visits were very encouraging to him, believe me, his and his buddies’ faith, demeanor, character, mission, dedication and love of America gave me much more. It was but two days after our fourth barbecue and rally to honor our troops in San Luis Obispo that I had this opportunity to meet with wounded heroes fresh from the battlefield.

Lance stated that he was in the Army because he wanted to give something back to his country because of the freedoms our country had given him and others.

Another soldier had a young child whom he had not even seen yet. Still, he commented that this was the price of freedom.

Lance’s position in life is rooted in his firm faith in God, he said, and in knowing that even in this challenge his life was part of God’s plan.

It was a humbling honor to be in a military hospital with true patriots. I marvel at their strength of character.

Our volunteer troops are to be honored and supported, just like those who heeded the call at the birth of our nation.

Liberty is not won in a weekend. I salute our troops.

Matt Kokkonen is a financial planner in San Luis Obispo and the organizer of the 9/11 barbecue supporting the troops.

1 comment:

Suzette said...

Also there was a great letter to the editor in Fri. Sept 27 Tribune.